NFL Redskins 

Balance key as Redskins face Giants in regular season finale

For the second time in as many weeks, the Washington Redskins have been given an opportunity to take the final playoff seed in the NFC. This chance came courtesy of their division foes, the Dallas Cowboys. As the Redskins prepare for the final week of the regular season, they hope to play as the best version of themselves. That’s on both sides of the ball.

The offensive production against the Chicago Bears in Week 16 is what makes this team great. A balanced offensive attack throughout the game, capitalizing off of opposing offenses mistakes. This week against the New York Giants, the Redskins have to stick with their true identity.

The Redskins passing game is what makes the offense lethal, however the ability to run the ball and control the line of scrimmage is what makes this offense elite. Kirk Cousins is at his best when the threat of a run game exists, keeping defenses on edge and keeping his offense less predictable. The Redskins are 8-1-1 when rushing the ball for at least 20 times in a game this year, compared to just 0-5 when they do not.

Against what was an injured, but top 10 Chicago defense in some categories, Washington ran the ball 35 times and utilized every inch of the field in the passing game throwing for 270 yards on 18 completions. They struggled early on in the ground game, but  stuck with it, eventually establishing the line of scrimmage. They would run for over 200-yards, thanks to a late 60-yard touchdown run by  Mack Brown. Winning the time of possession battle with 32 minutes to 27 for Chicago.

When scouting the Giants defense, it’s easy to see why they are one of the top units in the league. Ranking second in stopping the run and fifth in how many yards surrendered per pass (6.7), Washington can’t be one dimensional.

This is a true test to see where the mindset of offensive coordinator Sean McVay is as he prepares to attack New York in Jay Gruden’s offense. The Redskins ran it 30 times in their first meeting with the Giants, but struggled to maintain balance. The game was placed on the shoulders Cousins up until the last drive, with eight run plays called. With the assumption that the Giants are not resting starters (even though I believe they may rest some key guys with a spot clinched), the Redskins have a tough yet attainable task ahead which is staying committed to the ground game.

Washington’s defense has struggled year long against opposing offenses, but they need to what needs continue taking advantage of mistakes by offenses by pressuring the quarterback.

Against Chicago, the Redskins forced a season high five turnovers, all interceptions while applying pressure on Matt Barkley early and often. The person applying the most pressure was second year linebacker Preston Smith. He has struggled in that category this season, but he tallied a few pressures and sacked Barkley once. Smith’s pressure played a role in a couple of those interceptions. The much maligned defensive unit does have a knack for forcing turnovers, they’re quite opportunistic in that regard, but good balance on offense will limit the number of snaps this defense is on the field.

Washington’s defense surrendered 457 yards of offense in their first meeting, but Eli Manning was sacked twice, fumbled twice (0 lost) and threw two interceptions. The Redskins were able to make Manning uncomfortable via pressure, a few knockdowns in the game and it resulted in the first win of the season for them. It is important for the front seven to create consistent pressure and the secondary to make plays on the football when it is in the air. Washington’s unit has struggled to get off the field without mistakes by an opposing offense. With the season being on the line, it’d be a great time for them to buck that trend. 

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